From America's Test Kitchen Season 10: Chicken and Rice—Indian-Style
We weren’t going to let a 24-hour marinade or the lack of a 900-degree oven keep us from turning this great Indian classic into an easy weeknight dinner. We set out to reinvent this traditional dish as a recipe that could be made year-round in the oven.
Traditional tandoors produce moist, smoky meat because the fierce heat allows protein molecules on the meat’s surface to cross-link and contract, trapping moisture inside. Juices fall on the coals along with rendered fat, creating smoke that flavors the food. Trying to mimic the tandoor by cooking chicken in a very hot oven gave us disappointing results. Instead we turned to a technique we use to preserve the juiciness of thick-cut steaks. We baked the chicken in a low-temperature oven until almost done, then gave it a quick broil to char the exterior. To get flavor into the meat, we turned to a salt-spice rub made with garam masala, cumin, and chili powder bloomed in oil with ginger and garlic. We massaged the rub into chicken pieces to lock in juices and infuse flavor, then left them to sit. Following a dunk in yogurt flavored with the same spice mix, the chicken was ready for the oven. The results? Juicy, lightly charred, well-seasoned meat with just the right degree of tenderness.
We prefer this dish with whole-milk yogurt, but low-fat yogurt can be substituted. If garam masala is unavailable, substitute 2 teaspoons ground coriander, ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom, ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon, and ½ teaspoon ground black pepper. It is important to remove the chicken from the oven before switching to the broiler setting to allow the broiler element to come up to temperature. Serve with basmati rice and a few chutneys or relishes.